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Celebrating our magical woodlands for World Environment Day

A majestic tawny owl in full flight, a rare barbastelle bat and a gorgeously-cute hazel dormouse are the stars of a new series of films celebrating the woodlands of the South Downs.

The National Park is marking World Environment Day on Friday, 5 June with three films that showcase the trees, animals and people who make woodlands such beautiful, enchanting and life-giving places.

The first video is a treat for wildlife-lovers, with stunning close-up footage of birds, mammals and insects. The second focuses on the Guardians of the Woodland – a unique insight into the people who help manage woodlands and ensure they remain special places.

The third film is a fascinating account of forester Nina Williams, who recalls how her lifelong passion for woods came from her childhood adventures at Kingley Vale’s 2,000-year-old yew forests.

Nick Heasman, Countryside and Policy Manager at the South Downs National Park and who narrates in the films, said: “It’s wonderful to be able to share these films with the public and we hope they inspire and educate people about just how amazing our woodlands are.

“When people think of the South Downs they think of its rolling chalk grasslands. But follow the Downs west and pasture gives way to some of the richest and most diverse woodland in the country.

“Trees actually cover almost a quarter of the National Park – more woodland than any other National Park in England or Wales.

“No two woodlands in the South Downs are the same and each is home to a unique cast of trees and animals.

“These films are not just about woods, though. They are also about the people who are the stewards of these amazing places, revealing the physical, economic and spiritual connection people have with woodlands. There’s a sense of belonging to the landscape that is reflected in a remarkable symbiosis – of woods shaped by people and people shaped by woods.”

Woodsman and eco-builder Ben Law, who makes his living from around 100 acres of mainly coppice woodland, said: “People have a really important role to play in South Downs woods – particularly coppice woodland. If you take people out of the coppicing cycle, the biodiversity decreases. The coppice grows tall and becomes high forest and the light doesn’t get through and flowers, that are food for the insects, don’t appear. By cutting the coppice we’re starting to see an increase in wildflowers, the butterflies coming back and a really nice mix of birds.

“My time in the woods is just like the flicker of a leaf. These woods have been here thousands of years and will go on way beyond me and probably all of us. So it’s small time frame I’m here but you can make a big impact by passing something on in a better condition than when you started.”

And Nick added: “The woods of the South Downs National Park are our life support – providing us with oxygen, carbon storage, timber and incredible places to explore and enjoy. They are a precious resource under increased threat from climate change and pests, so it’s vital that they are carefully managed.”

World Environment Day is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment.

To watch the video on Head Forester Nina click here.